This is the first long-term review where I’ve had the opportunity to test drive and experience what it’s like to live with one of the review cars, and fair to say the car I’ve had has indeed set the bar relatively high. As some of you would know, I consider myself an Audi fan; it combines power, luxury and safety into a nice tightly wrapped package. However, recently, Audis have become relatively tame and docile. Perhaps they’ve become too safe and what I was seeking was something to give me a thrill and a bottom quenching experience. This is where the 2020 BMW 330i M Sport Plus comes in.
Straight off the bat, when the car was delivered to me, I had fallen for it completely. Exterior wise it’s more appealing than the previous generation 3 series, and certain angles and curves also pay homage to the original generation E30 from the 80s and previous 3 series models. When I got the car, it was a black-on-black layout, dark exterior and dark interior. It blended in with other vehicles and made you feel like a hitman for hire, then again, I am a big kid, and I think I enjoyed myself more than I should’ve with a car, but I digress.
Let me be honest with you, not once when having the BMW did I ever feel like it was down on power or that it needed more of it to get me out of traffic or particular situations. This mild hybrid may have been a small 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, but it packed an almighty 255 bhp and 400 Nm of torque. This was enough to get it from 0-62 mph in around 5.4 seconds, and believe me at times it felt like a blink of an eye. All that power was also sent to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic gearbox, which meant that when safe and allowed to do so, you could do some pretty fun and controlled drifts when going through the corners.
With all the performance it didn’t come with a price of sacrificing economy, when I used it as a daily going to and from work, I was averaging 34 mpg and even when I was driving it harsh and aggressively the mpg didn’t go lower than 24. if performance and economy are what you want, then I say look no further. Although if you’re looking for something with a bit more power and presence but can’t afford an M3, maybe the M340i M Sport is what you are seeking. It comes with a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six and the same eight-speed automatic gearbox, while also having x drive. Meaning you have the added safety and reassurance, and I have to agree with that. Personally I’d go for the M340i for the sole purpose of the sound, the one thing I disliked about the 330i was the fake exhaust note being played through the speakers. The 2.0 litre sound wasn’t bad, but nothing beats the bellowing noise emitted from a straight-six engine not to mention the M340i won’t depreciate as much as the 330i will.
The interior impressed me the most; I was never a fan of BMW interiors’ plain and simple look nor their infotainment system and instrument cluster. Oh how wrong I was, it does feel quite austere and lacking additional buttons and features compared to its competitors. However, the interior is better laid out than in the Mercedes C Class, which feels quite claustrophobic and tight at times and a little too many buttons and features for my liking. It is a bit too dark and gloom inside, though the ambient lighting helps break it up and adds to the ambience. The infotainment system caught me by surprise, within 5 minutes of playing around with it I knew exactly where each feature and function was and unlike in Audi where all the features are found within sub menus and can be confusing. BMWs infotainment system is probably the best in the business right now. About the instrument cluster I admit it is dark, however, it works with the ambience with BMW and its interior. It does take some getting used to, but I understand why they did it, it utilises the whole screen and the backwards dials ensure there’s more space to use.
The driving experience is the sole purpose of why everyone gets a BMW; after all, their slogan is the ultimate driving machine. Fair to say, I was not disappointed, right out of the box the driving positions feels perfect, the steering wheel is thick, responsive and has that sports car feel. On the road, you have the grip and the confidence around the corners, it might be a rear-wheel drive, but you always feel in control. When driving it usually feels just like any other car, but switch it to sport plus and put the stability control into traction mode and everything changes. The steering sharpens, the throttle is more responsive, and the brakes grip tighter; not to mention the gearbox which is an absolute masterpiece. What you have here is a full-fledged race car on the road, and you better be awake, the unique traction control system will allow you have some slip and drifting through the corners, but it won’t let you kill yourself. I must admit the ride is a bit firm and harsh, but I didn’t have the optional extra of having adaptive dampers which would’ve made it a tad bit softer.
To sum up, the BMW 330i M Sport is a perfect entry for anyone looking for a small family saloon, both practical and a hell of a lot of fun to drive. Yes, the interior may be a tad too dark compared to its competitors, but the speed and performance you get from it most things in the real world would struggle to keep up with the BMW. After having the 330i long term, it has converted me over to the dark side and made me realise what owning a fast, and sporty BMW truly means. It’s the added factor of thrill and excitement that appeals into your inner hooligan, as well as, the added benefit of the economy and great practicality. Unfortunately, you better be prepared to top up the engine oil if you will be thrashing it about a fair bit. Though overall, the BMW 330i M Sport truly is the ultimate driving machine of its class.
Images from http://www.caricos.com